Leeds Rhinos: McDermott plays down Carnegie link

Brian McDermott.
Brian McDermott.
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LEEDS RHINOS team boss Brian McDermott has played down speculation he is set to take a greater role with rugby union sister club Yorkshire Carnegie.

The 15-a-side outfit are expected to confirm the departure of coach Gary Mercer, who is understood to have left the club following last Friday’s home draw with Championship strugglers Plymouth.

Though an official announcement had not been made last night, forwards coach Tony McGee is poised to be in charge for Carnegie’s B&I Cup game at Aberavon on Friday.

McDermott is also set to have an involvement with the union side, but the Rhinos coach, who is a regular at Carnegie home games, stressed he will not be taking an official role.

“I certainly will be helping out, offering advice and lending a bit of support,” confirmed McDermott.

“But what I want to make really clear is that has always been the case ever since I’ve been head coach.

“If you go further back, when I was assistant-coach here I took a lot of defensive sessions under Phil Davies when he was (the rugby union club’s) coach.

“When I became head coach Jimmy Lowes came on board as my assistant and did a lot of offence and defence work with Leeds Carnegie, then when he became head coach I – at the very least – addressed the squads two or three times a season.

“I have probably stood in front of the current Carnegie squad on six or seven different occasions.

“Quite often I have a fair amount of dialogue with the players and I have a hell of a lot of dialogue with the coaches.

“My involvement has always been high and there’s always been a lot of synergy between the two clubs. This is nothing out of the ordinary, it has always gone on.” Rhinos are almost a month into preparations for their First Utility Super League opener at Hull KR on February 8.

Pre-season can be the most intense period of the year, but McDermott insisted there is no danger of him taking his eye off the rugby league ball.

He added: “I am not going to have an official role.

“I am not all of a sudden going to become forwards coach, backs coach or kicking coach. I am not going to become a paid member of staff.

“Certainly whatever involvement I have will not detract from what I do with the Rhinos. That won’t happen.

“But we work in the same place and our offices are next to each other. Our players mingle with each other. I think it would be wrong and it would be silly if we couldn’t pass over expertise. I’ve had quite long conversations with (previous Carnegie coaches) Diccon Edwards, Jimmy Lowes and Gary Mercer and (executive chairman) Sir Ian McGeechan.

“There’s a fair amount of ideas get talked about and swapped. This is just one of those periods where we will probably do it a bit more than we normally do.

“It doesn’t mean there’s anything official or I am becoming a paid member of their staff.”

Mercer – an ex-Leeds Rhinos captain – was only two months into a two-year contract with Carnegie.

Last year’s Championship play-off semi-finalists have slumped to 10th in the table and gone five matches without a league win. Last Friday’s game – which attracted a crowd of just 1,265 – saw Leeds go within seconds of becoming the first team to lose to bottom-placed Plymouth this year, before Christian Georgiou saved face with a last-gasp equalising try.

Carnegie have won just twice in the Championship this term and have yet to record a victory on their home ground.

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